The magic of peanut butter

rice krispie valentines

Like many delicious things (Popsicles spring to mind), these treats were a happy accident. I didn’t leave soda outside though. I was making adorable heart-shaped rice krispie treats when I realized I needed to make vegetarian-friendly treats as well. Because it is ridiculously cold out, I didn’t want to go out and search for vegan marshmallows or Fluff or something I wasn’t going to use again.

As usual, the internet came through with something delicious! If you don’t eat corn syrup, I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve seem some recipes with some kind of brown rice syrup…I’m not sure I can recommend it because I’ve never worked with it.

I don’t have photos of them, just of their pink gelatin-based cousins. But I assure you, they were a big hit and anything shaped like a heart is always adorable.

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Chewy, Minty Goodness

peppermint patty cookiesI am a bad person. I promised to post these cookies some time ago. And , in my defense, I thought that I had.

Apparently, all I had actually accomplished was  typing up the recipe. The story behind these cookies is actually a bit longer than the recipe though. In the beginning of October, whilst out grocery shopping at BJs (a wholesale club, for those not in the know), I realized we hadn’t yet bought Halloween candy. Why I thought it would be a good idea to buy Halloween candy in bulk, I am not sure. The point is that we ended up with 175 individual York Peppermint Patties.  And not a single trick o’ treater.

We weren’t in fact home during the  scheduled Halloween session so that is partially our fault. But why do kids trick o’ treat between 5-6 pm nowadays? Very strange. Anyways, we thought we’d be ok. After all, mints tend to prevent overindulgence. Or so we thought. My impressive stamina in the quest for all thins sugary shocked us both. Quickly, I began to search for a recipe which would allow me to use up some of our stash.

Peppermint patty ice cream? Sounds heavenly but I have no ice cream maker.
Peppermint patty cake? Well, it’s really just chocolate cake with peppermints on top, plus it is a paint to serve.
Peppermint patty cookies? Now that could work. And They would be easy to share.

And so I have.

Chewy Peppermint Cookies
Adapted from Alice Medrich via Orangette

4 tbsp butter, melted
2/3 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
7 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 c flour
1/3 c yogurt, plain (I use nonfat)
½ c York Peppermint Patties, cut into quarters

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. This is a must!

Combine butter and sugars in a large bowl. Sift in cocoa powder and blend well. Add remaining dry ingredients and stir. The dough will become very thick indeed. Carefully add the yogurt. Once the dough is uniform, stir in the Peppermint Patties. Try not to crush them completely, though some casualties are to be expected.

Scoop out about 1 inch balls of dough. Bake 10-12 minutes or until the tops look set. After 5 minutes or so, transfer the cookies to a rack and allow to cool completely. Hopefully, they will have set up enough. They can be rather structurally weak if the Patties have melted out (this is also why we lined the baking sheets!)

 

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Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald: Book Review

This month’s book may be late but it is well worth your attention. Therese Anne Fowler has written a novel on Zelda Fitzgerald. It covers shortly before her 18th birthday to F. Scott’s death in 1940 and slightly beyond.

It details their wartime courtship, quiet New York City wedding, and subsequent move to Long Island, whose lavish parties and extravagant lifestyle inspired Great Gatsby. In a search for quiet life, the couple moved to Paris where Scott became involved with a new set including Hemingway. It provides another side to the Hemingway/Fitzgerald friendship which has made me rethink Hemingway as an author. I knew there was a reason for his macho-man persona!

Zelda’s mental problems naturally make up a part of the storyline. Frankly, they seem as much Scott’s problem as anything which is wrong with her. True, she is feisty and a little wild, but she is nothing compared to today’s socialites and reality TV stars. I couldn’t help but wonder if she would have been happier if she lived nowadays, without Scott’s constant desire to provide for her and to prevent her from excelling in anything she would like to do.

Zelda’s writing was published under Scott’s name, her ballet career was halted, and her painting restricted, at least in the story. I don’t know how accurate a text it is, but I don’t really care. I found the book enthralling and really beautiful. So often the picture that we have a Zelda Fitzgerald is a partial one. Hemingway’s vicious characterization in A Moveable Feast. Scott’s skewed portrait in Tender is the Night. The wild and lost Zelda of the film Midnight in Paris.

Finally, Zelda is given her own voice. And, boy, does she have a story to tell.

 

 

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Ghost Pumpkin Soup

white pumpkin soup

This month’s book: Z by Therese Anne Fowler

The holidays call for elegant food. However, the rich stuff you normally eat doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. So how about this for a change: white pumpkin chestnut soup. It’s a great January soup, really. No cream or fat really, aside from a tiny bit of olive oil. It is complex in flavors and very pretty!

The original recipe calls for cooking the fresh pumpkin chunks in the broth and then pureeing and seasoning everything. However, I tend to make an afternoon of roasting, pureeing, and freezing fresh pumpkins in the fall/winter. Especially when I have been given pretty white pumpkins! Standard orange sugar pumpkins will also work. The most important thing is not to use canned pumpkin. It will be too thick and is most likely already sweetened.

White Pumpkin Soup with Roasted Chestnuts
Adapted from Manger

olive oil
1 large onion, small dice
4 c chicken broth
1 large pumpkin, roasted and pureed
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
20-25 roasted chestnuts, broken into 4 to 6 pieces

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onions and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add chicken broth and pumpkin puree to the pot. Bring to a simmer. Add seasonings to taste. Serve with 3-4 chestnuts  sprinkled over the top.

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Sticky Plum Pudding

sticky plum pudding

I missed posting this for Christmas by a lot. But in my defense, I didn’t decide to make it until Christmas morning after the roast had gone into the oven.However, as it has fruit in it, I am deeming it a “healthy dessert.”

I love a British Christmas. It just seems so ideal to me: Charles Dickens, a roaring fire, steamed pudding, the Queen’s speech, Christmas crackers. Since it was going to be a fairly small celebration at my parents’ house, I decided create something different and special. Standing rib roast, check. Yorkshire pudding, check. Sticky toffee pudding, full of dates and sugar-y goodness, oops.

We had no dates. Continue reading

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Maine: Book Review

One fractured family. One summer house. One heart-wrenching novel.

I began reading this book expecting a light summer read about three generations of women. What I didn’t expect was a book that would make me cry in my car. Did I mention this was an audiobook? No? Moving forward, the narrator was fantastic. Her Boston accent was wonderful and she managed to make each character distinctive. I now long for a geographically distinctive drawl to my own voice and may have to make one up.

The novel itself is equally lovely. It takes place over the course of a single summer in a vacation compound along the coast of Maine. With much in common to the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, you aren’t surprised by how the marriage of the grandmother, Alice, turns out or what her relationship with alcohol or her daughters is like. Even a granddaughter who writes is almost identical to Well’s novel. What is different is the lack of sisterhood. These women all live fairly isolated lives. Their inability to communicate with others is what makes this piece unique and moving. Relationships with siblings are complicated enough.

Descriptions of warm, Maine summers with crisp mornings and croissants left me longing for summer already. Or at least a trip up to Kennebunkport (go to Federal Jack’s and get the clam chowder!)

Most certainly a book to add to your summer reading list, if not your winter.

 

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

bananabread3

This month’s book: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Am I the only one with a crowded freezer? Black bananas and once-sunny egg yolks wrapped in foil. Yogurt in desperate need of being used. Sounds like it is time for banana bread. With the cold snap we just had, it’s definitely time.

I like banana bread that tastes like bananas, preferably with little chunks of banana throughout. The chocolate should be the gilding of the lily. I also topped this one with crushed sugar cubes, which add a little extra texture.

There really isn’t much to say except that this bread didn’t last more than a few days in our kitchen and we have been hoarding bananas!

bananabread1

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Adapted from Gold Medal Flour, I think

1 c sugar
½ c oil
2 medium bananas, mashed
½ c yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 c flour
1 c chocolate chips tossed with 1 tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

Mix together sugar, oil, bananas, yogurt, vanilla, and eggs until smooth. Fold in dry ingredients until just combined. Gently mix in chocolate chips until uniformly distributed. Pour into a loaf pan.

Bake for 60 min or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

 

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